KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It wasn’t the home run that extended the meaningless streak. It was the home run that extended the meaningful streak — the winning streak.
With his unusual but powerful body frame that’s part fullback and part beer keg and a unique swing to fit that build, Daniel Vogelbach had already reached cult hero status among Mariners fans despite never previously being a significant presence in Major League Baseball. But now given an extended chance with the Mariners for the first time in his career, he’s moved past potential and into production and permanence.
Vogelbach unleashed that short, violent swing on a 95-mph fastball from Kansas City’s Glenn Sparkman in the 10th inning of a tie game, sending a laser of a line drive over the wall in deep right-center for the winning homer in the Mariners’ 7-6 come-from-behind victory against the Royals.
After losing the first game of the road trip, Seattle has reeled off six straight wins, including a four-game sweep of the Royals, to improve to 13-2 on the season. The Mariners open a six-game homestand on Friday night at T-Mobile Park vs. the Astros.
“That was awesome,” manager Scott Servais said. “What a team effort, just unbelievable series we had here. Great road trip and start to the season. Everybody is contributing. It’s a great feeling. Confidence is building. it’s at a high. And we are riding the Vogey train, what can we say?”
The Vogey train didn’t exactly leave the station early in the season. His playing time was lost behind veterans Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion. But he followed the advice of teammate Mitch Haniger: “Force them to play you.”
He’s done that. Since getting an emergency start vs. the Angels in the previous homestand finale, where he doubled and hit his first homer of the season, Vogelbach has a slash line of .462/.531/1.308 with four doubles, six homers and 11 RBI.
That sixth homer didn’t look like it would get over the wall, but it was hit hard enough to possibly go through it. Servais called it a “one-iron.”
“I didn’t know if it was going to be high enough,” Vogelbach said. “I was hoping it would at least be off the wall for a double, but it rose out.”
Mariners rookie reliever Connor Sadzeck pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th for his first career save. It gave fellow rookie Brandon Brennan his first career win in relief.
Oh, and that other streak. Well, it was extended by an unlikely candidate and gave the Mariners a small piece of MLB history. Down 4-0 after five innings, Dee Gordon led off the top of the sixth with a solo homer to right field. Home runs aren’t typical for Gordon, who came in with 15 career homers in 865 MLB games. Gordon’s rare round-tripper gave the Mariners a home run in all 15 games to start the season. That streak eclipsed the MLB record of 14 straight games previously held by the 2002 Cleveland Indians. Seattle has 35 homers on the season, which is the most in the American League.
He took zero credit for it.
“The home run hitter got his big one so this don’t count for me,” Gordon said, trying to deflect the attention away from him.
Meanwhile, the homer hero praised Haniger for giving him the opportunity to bat in the 10th.
“I’m not in that situation if Haniger doesn’t have the at-bat to tie the game,” Vogelbach said.
Indeed, the Mariners were down to the final strike of the game. With two outs and runners on the corners, Haniger got the better of Royals closer Brad Boxberger for the second straight game. On a 3-2 count, Haniger fouled off three straight pitches before hammering a fly ball deep to left-center. Royals outfielder Billy Hamilton sprinted after the ball and seemed poised to catch it. But it bounced off his glove and he slammed into the wall, injuring himself. It was a two-run triple and sent the game to extra innings.
“I was just trying to battle,” Haniger said. “He threw the kitchen sink at me and finally left a changeup up in the zone. I knew I hit it really well.”
With the help of home plate umpire Marvin Hudson’s somewhat interpretive strike zone, Royals starter Jorge Lopez did something that only one other starting pitcher has accomplished against the Mariners this season — pitch six complete innings.
The grind-it-out approach the Mariners have used just never got going against Lopez, who pitched six innings, giving up two runs on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts. With the help of some solid defense, including a play of his own, Lopez retired the first 11 Mariners he faced before Domingo Santana notched Seattle’s first hit with two outs in the fourth inning.
“I thought their starter threw really well,” Servais said. “He was ahead in the count all day. He really kept us off balance.”
Meanwhile, the Royals looked more like the homer-happy team, bashing three of them off Mariners starter Mike Leake. Hunter Dozier notched their first with a solo blast in the second inning while Jorge Soler, who has worn out Mariners pitching, blasted a two-run homer to left in the third inning to make it 3-0. Adalberto Mondesi made it 4-0 with a solo shot in the fifth inning. The three homers allowed tied a career high for Leake.
After being shut out for five innings, Seattle broke through with Gordon’s homer. Mallex Smith followed with a triple to left. He scored on Haniger’s sac fly to make it 4-2. An inning later, Gordon tripled home Ryon Healy to make it 4-3.
The Mariners bullpen couldn’t keep the deficit to one run. Rookie Erik Swanson, who was making his MLB debut, gave up two runs in the seventh inning while getting minimal help from the Mariners’ suspect defense.
Seattle trimmed the lead to 6-4 in the eighth on an RBI single from Edwin Encarnacion. Seattle seemed poised for more runs, but Tim Beckham hit into a rare 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.